THE END IS NIGH Author Interview: Nancy Kress

Tell us a bit about your story.  What’s it about?

It’s about a change in neural wiring in the brains of children born after a volcano erupts and spews a strange molecule into the air along with its ash.  Fetal brains are very susceptible to environmental influences, especially in the first trimester.  It takes a while for people to realize what has happened, or that anything has.

What was the genesis of the story—what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

I wanted to write a different sort of apocalypse, a completely unexpected one.  This is, of course, just the set-up for the apocalypse to follow, but the question is there: Can the world as we know it be ended by too much sweetness of nature?

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

This one wasn’t too hard, once I’d settled on the narrator and her voice.  However, two entirely different narrators, and their voices, ended up deleted after a few pages.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

Little of my fiction is directly biographical.  Instead, I try to create characters unlike myself or my life—to deliberately explore what people not-me might feel and think and do.  On the other hand, I have two children, and the concern that this mother feels for her kids certainly comes from my maternal experience.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

I had to research volcanoes, which are a lot more interesting than I’d suspected.

What is the appeal—either as a writer or a reader—of stories that take place BEFORE an apocalypse?

The sense of impending doom is enjoyable as long as it’s not your doom.  You know something the characters don’t, and everyone likes to feel superior.  Or, alternately, it’s a superstitious way of warding off disaster by having it happen to somebody else—even fictional somebodies.